High River United Church of High River, Alberta


Loving Our Enemies - Does that mean bullies, too?

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One of the most essential things that Jesus commands us to do as followers of his Way is to love our enemies. In his time that would have included the Roman soldiers and the tax collectors who gathered the crippling Roman taxes, people who were really making life miserable for Jesus’ followers, friends, and family. Jesus also would have been speaking to bridging the natural human tribalism that draws boundaries between “us and them.”


In our society, a time when tribalism and divisiveness is as rampant as ever, people are too quickly named as enemies because they have different opinions or approaches than we do. That is causing great harm in our world, to people and to the planet. It is as essential as ever, for the good of our communities and the good of our world, that those of us who choose to follow the Way of Jesus embrace the radical act of reaching across boundaries and divisions and loving those who are perceived as enemies.


When I talk about loving enemies, I’ve had children ask me, “Does that mean we have to love bullies?” The answer is, “Yes,” but I would never stop there in the conversation with kids.


Loving a bully or someone who is abusing you doesn’t mean that you let them keep hurting you or others. Loving a bully or abuser doesn’t mean that you put yourself in harms way. (While an adult may make the choice to do so to protect a child or another person, I would never counsel a child to do this.)


So what does loving a bully mean for those of us who follow the Way of Jesus?


- it means understanding that they are a hurting human being, who is bullying others usually because they’ve been hurt or bullied themselves. That does not excuse their behaviour, but it helps us find a soft spot in our hearts for them.


- it means caring about all those they have hurt with their bullying.


What do we tell children about loving their enemies and dealing with a bully:


- don’t put yourself in harms way, if you can help it. 


- tell an adult about what is happening, even if the bully has threatened you and told you not to tell. Find an adult you trust (a teacher, a parent, a grandparent) and tell them everything about what has happened. Some kids might worry that they will be accused of “tattling” – which is more about trying to get someone in trouble, even if they didn’t really do something. Bullying is a situation where one must tell, for reasons of safety and protection.


- if you see someone else being bullied, get an adult to help. If no adult is around, (especially for older kids), you might call the other child, who is being bullied, to come and walk with you. Then, make sure to tell an adult.


-stop referring to them as a bully.  Use their name.  Talk about their actions as bullying behaviour, but don't label them as a bully.


- don’t join in saying mean things about the one who is bullying. Tell an adult, who can help you, what you saw or experienced, but don’t go around the playground making fun of the bully.


- speak respectfully to the one who is bullying. Smile at them or do something nice for them, if it won’t make you the target of their bullying. Talk about this first with a parent.


- say a prayer for the person who is bullying, asking God to care for their well-being.


As followers of Jesus, we need to love our enemies. It is one of the things that distinguishes us as his followers. We need to pay attention to not adding to divisiveness in our culture. We need to consider the judgments we make of others without even knowing them. We need to constantly work to move beyond the naturally tribalistic tendencies of human beings, and build bridges of relationship and friendship.


This is what we need to model for our children and teach our children. So yes, we love the bullies but that doesn’t mean that we allow them to keep hurting us or others. Telling a trusted adult and asking for help is also part of loving a bully. The bully might be reprimanded but, in the long run, it is not good for a bully to be a bully and it’s not good for anyone close to them. So telling, is not tattling. Telling is part of loving as well.


And loving God, loving neighbour, loving ourselves, loving strangers and enemies…. that’s what we do as followers of the Way of Jesus.

September 19, 2019                             ©Susan Lukey 2019

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